Shoot. Move. Communicate. Management Lesson from the New York Times

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Shoot. Move. Communicate. Management Lesson from the New York Times

Beginning in boot camp, the Army embeds a short, three word mantra in its soldiers: Shoot. Move. Communicate. Within the confines of both military (absolutely), and business settings (metaphorically), that precept makes impeccably good sense. Get some licks in on the enemy or competition, defend yourself while maintaining the element of surprise, and let your troops and supporters know what you’re doing, how it’s going, and what you need from them.

It doesn’t stop there, though. Smart leaders, like smart soldiers pay careful attention to where and how much of these three elements they are employing in a given scenario. For example, sometimes it makes sense to keep your powder dry.

This is a concept that NY Times publisher and chairman Arthur Sulzberger is apparently still adjusting to. Last week, he shot (specifically, he fired the paper’s Executive Editor, Jill Abramson). He moved (as in on, by promoting Dean Baquet to replace Ms. Abramson). And then he communicated (not content to simply announce her departure, he publicly went into detail as to the fault he found with her job performance).

Mr. Sulzberger may have been entirely correct on the first two decisions, but the third one is a complete non-starter, and it will cost him, even if the damage is limited to his reputation. Ostensibly, the exact reasons for the termination had already been reviewed with the paper’s board, to wit no one else needed to know his justification for the decision. Further, it’s important to realize that right now the paper’s remaining 3500 or so employees are spending copious quantities of time and energy wondering if that’s how they would be treated if they were the ones in the cross-hairs. As a consequence, we can be pretty well assured that there isn’t a lot of good writing and reporting going on at the Times this week.

There is never (repeat, never) a good reason to disparage someone on their way out the door, even if your comments are factual. That is advice that your attorney, your HR staff, and PR pro would all likely agree with.

Instead, Mr. Sulzberger would have been far better off simply announcing the management change, thanking Ms. Abramson for her service, and wishing her well… end of story. Or, as our mommas taught us at a young age, “If you don’t have something nice to say…”

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